Interview with Manisha Nene, India

We met Manisha Nene, Director, General Administration and Collection Management, of the CSMVS.

Why do Europe-Asia relations matter to you?
People often assume that the relationship between Asia and Europe began with Europe’s colonization. However, if we look further back, we understand that it is older and multi-layered. Each continent influences and makes impressions on the other. This relationship continues even today – not just in the political sphere and economic transactions but also through cultural exchange and dialogue.

How important are international exchanges to the CSMVS?
Our Museum, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), Mumbai, has always believed in sharing and working with other museums and similar institutions, and it has a long history of such collaborations. We work with Indian and international institutions through exhibitions and numerous programmes. It is important that people today understand that each culture has played a role in the long history of humankind. It has always been the motto of the museum to appeal to both local and global communities, so that people can appreciate the similarities and differences between cultures.
The exhibition, A Passage to Asia, 25 centuries of exchange between Asia and Europe, has now been launched in digital format, and the CSMVS contributed the manuscript of Anis-al-Hajjaj.

Can you tell us more about this extraordinary manuscript?
It is the earliest illustrated and complete manuscript of Anis-al-Hajjaj. There are two other manuscripts – in the Raza Library at Rampur and the British Library, London (mid-19th century). Anis-al-Haj or Anis-ul-Hajjaj is a travelogue by Safi bin Vali Qazvin, who was sponsored by Zeb-un-Nisa, the daughter of Aurangzeb who sent him to go on the Haj pilgrimage to Medina. The author embarked on his journey in 1676 and on his return meticulously recorded the details of his preparations and journey in this travelogue. The manuscript has 28 paintings illustrating various episodes of the journey.

Anis-al-Hajjaj manuscript, CSMVS, Mumbai, India

My typical workday: “Discovering something new every time”

The exciting part of the job is to discover something new about the collection each time I look at it. It can be the smallest of things, like spotting an extra figure on an object. I have been working in this museum for over 30 years, yet every time I look at an object, I see something new.
The CSMVS itself is open to new discoveries too. It is a green museum, conscious of its role as a global institute and dedicated to its responsibility towards the environment. This belief informs employee habits and is manifested in the use of solar energy, LED lighting, water conservation and harvesting, a no-plastic approach and waste management. In 2019, the museum received the highest rating, Platinum, in the Existing Building category from the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) for its global leadership in environmental management.
My days at the museum begin when it opens, and I ensure that all the day’s tasks have been allocated. The plan is laid out and put in action. After that, I supervise work related to management of the collection and do some research. I also look after general administrative and financial matters, implement active projects and discuss the future of the museum with the Director-General and other colleagues.

Manisha Nene is the Director, General Administration and Collection Management, of the CSMVS

Founded in the early 1900s, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CMSVS) in Mumbai is one of India’s premier cultural institutions. Its foundation stone was laid by the Prince of Wales on 11 November 1905, and the museum was named the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India. The building was completed in 1914 but only opened to the public on 10 January 1922. Until then it was used as a military hospital and for exhibitions on children’s welfare. The museum houses 70,000 works of art, including Indian sculptures, decorative art, folk art and miniature painting. It also has modern Indian painting and European and Southeast Asian art, as well as natural history specimens.